A Better education
Tufts is a prestigious educational institution, but there is so much more that it can be doing to support its faculty and students to ensure both have access to the best opportunities possible.
Make course evaluations public – there's no reason why students should have to rely on Rate My Professors to see whether professors teach classes well. As some professors can be insensitive when talking about particular issues, students have a right to know whether the person they're looking to take a course with is one of them. change that would enable students to make better informed decisions about the courses they sign up for would be to make course evaluations public.
Require tentative syllabi to be posted prior to class signups – it can be difficult to anticipate what you are signing up for before you do, and a large part of that is attributable to the lack of information that students receive before class signups. As Tufts lacks a shopping period, its class pages on SIS should include links to syllabi, so that students can make more informed choices about what they are signing up for. This change would provide students with better information about their workload and about the topics that a course would cover, ensuring that they can avoid stretching themselves too thin or signing up for classes which they have no real interest in.
Ensure Senate does its part in ensuring Tufts’ best professors receive tenure – Senate plays an important role in the tenure process, writing up summaries and making evaluations about professors based on course evaluations. But the current system is broken, and in recent years many great faculty members have been denied tenure and ended up leaving (or being forced to leave) Tufts. We need to revamp the system by building on the work of Senate Education Chair Phil Miller, who has worked to increase differentiation between scores and more accurately reflect professors' quality. I also plan on pushing the administration to place increased importance on student feedback -- both when it is positive and when it points out problematic behavior -- over trustees' decisions in deciding which professors are given tenure.
Support faculty of color – Twelve faculty members of color are leaving this year alone, and that's no coincidence. Tufts should invest more resources in recruiting professors from underrepresented backgrounds, especially in departments like Political Science which severely lack them. But merely recruiting more diverse professors is not enough: extending tenure-track positions to faculty of color to increase retention is also important, as are mandatory anti-bias trainings for all faculty and staff.
Institute cultural competency training for all faculty – professors should have the tools necessary to avoid biases and insensitive comments, and cultural competency training is an important step toward ensuring everyone on campus feels safe and supported in their classrooms.
Continue recent efforts to attract students from underrepresented states, and create a similar program for students from other unrepresented backgrounds – Of about 1,200 students from within the U.S. in the class of 2019, 673 come from just four states (MA, CA, NY, and NJ). Meanwhile, there are 5 or fewer students coming from 25 states. At the same time, Tufts lacks the racial diversity of many of its peer institutions. Senators Grant Gebetsberger, Anna Del Castillo, and Rebeca Becdach, and others have instituted a project which sends students from underrepresented states to high schools to encourage them to apply to Tufts; this is a great project that deserves administrative support and expansion. Students from underrepresented groups should be targeted for outreach and should receive the necessary support to ensure they can succeed once they arrive.
Prioritize functionality over style in future renovations, making the most of limited funds – our campus has beautiful new buildings like SciTech, while the ceilings in other buildings (*cough* Eaton *cough*) are literally collapsing. As Tufts has a limited amount of money, it should prioritize functionality over style in its renovations so that its resources can stretch further and all students can have access to spaces on campus which aid their work, rather than hindering it. While I recognize the limited role that students play in these decisions, I plan on advocating for more equitable use of resources.
Create de facto spaces for majors which lack them – with a few exceptions, most humanities and social science majors (and some hard science majors as well) lack true headquarters in which students can get together to seek help from professors and each other. While it may be infeasible to create a building for each major, steps can be taken to ensure that resources relevant to particular majors are available near each other.
Create new minors – TCU Senate has played an integral role in preserving and creating new majors in the past, and it should continue to do so. I plan on continuing the work of former Senator Chris Leaverton in fighting for the creation of a French and Spanish minor for A&S students, as well as a community health minor for Engineering students.
Continue to support the textbook exchange – The textbook exchange has saved students almost $100,000 on textbooks, and it is an important resource that must continue to stay well-supported. This includes pushing for administrative monetary support and doing our part as Senate to ensure we're keeping up our end of the bargain. I plan on continuing to expand the program and work alongside Phil to better integrate with Book it Forward, ensuring that books which are not purchased can be easily donated and given out to students on financial aid at no cost whatsoever.
Allow students to petition for credit before signing up for classes – as it stands now, students can petition for classes to count toward distribution requirements which otherwise would not. This ability is important so that students can take courses they truly enjoy to meet requirements, provided they are relevant. The problem is that this can only be done retroactively, so it is impossible to know that a course will count for a credit before you sign up for it. I support creating a system through which students can petition a course for credit as soon as course descriptions (and hopefully syllabi) come out, ensuring that students who are scrambling to graduate on time can take away meaningful experiences from even classes in categories they might not love.
Expand acceptance of IB credits and allow students to place out of requirements in other ways – Senators Izzy Ma and Alexa Weinstein have done great work in testing the pulse of campus, and their work should result in meaningful changes. There is no reason why students are allowed to use 4s (and in some cases 3s) for many courses to receive college credit, yet IB students generally needs 6s and 7s. This requirement should be reduced so that international students and students attending high schools using the IB system are not unfairly placed at a disadvantage. Further, students who attend schools which either cannot afford AP/IB programs or lack them for other reasons, should have the ability to take other tests to earn credit in a similar way.
Rework distribution requirements – many Senators have attempted to rework distribution requirements in the past, and all have been met with resistance from the administration. I cannot promise that we will eliminate them entirely (nor do I think doing so would be in our best interest), but I do support increasing flexibility so that students can take risks without being forced to take classes they are completely disinterested in. Something as simple as letting students take 8 classes across the 5 distribution categories rather than 10 would allow for flexibility that could help make students' educational experiences more enjoyable and rewarding.
Pair first-year students with pre-major advisors who can actually help them – as it stands, pre-major advisers are assigned either randomly or based on the course that students happen to sign up for as their "advising course." There is no room for their interests in this calculus, and many students end up being placed with perfectly nice professors who lack the experience or knowledge necessary to help first-year students plan their courseload to ensure they can take the courses they want and graduate on time. Rather than assigning pre-major advisers randomly, I would fight to offer first-year students the option of being paired with a faculty member from a department or topic area of interest.
Let people sign up for more than 5.5/6.5 credits if a course is waitlisted – Sometimes when you sign up for classes, all the classes you wanted are waitlisted. But since waitlisted classes count toward the total of classes you can sign up for, it can be risky to enroll in all of them. I'd advocate for increased flexibility in course registration, so that students can sign up for the classes they want without fear of being locked out and have to scramble to pick new classes at the last minute.